BOSTON — Contrary to popular belief, the Boston Celtics were not resting on their laurels.
On Wednesday, the day before the draft, the Celtics flew in former University of New Mexico star J.R. Giddens for a long workout.
While scouting reports questioned his work ethic and defense, the Celtics apparently said the sharpshooting 6-foot-5 Giddens was impressive on both counts in Waltham.
"He has a chance to fight for minutes just with his defense," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. "He was very competitive in his workout."
Giddens comes with some baggage. Thought to be a "lottery" talent, his character was a red flag.
Giddens left the University of Kansas after two troubling seasons with coach Bill Self, which included an incident in which he was stabbed at a Lawrence, Kansas bar. At New Mexico he was suspended a couple of times for attitude issues, which included fighting with teammates.
Everything apparently changed when Steve Alford took over his senior season.
"He taught me how to lead and stay composed (when things aren't going well)," said Giddens. "I thank (coach Alford) for giving me a chance to play with confidence."
Giddens did not hide from his past, admitting all of the stories of his troubles had some validity to them.
"I did not make good decisions. I admit that," said Giddens. "I feel like I've overcome all of those things."
As for being chosen by the Celtics, Giddens fought for words to describe his feelings.
"I feel blessed," he said in a conference call with his New Mexico teammates and coaching staff nearby. "I have a lot of work to do ... I need to work on ballhandling and free throw shooting (59 percent over two seasons at New Mexico). ... I never dreamed I would be with the Celtics. They are the world champions. I can't believe it."
Physically, Giddens is noted for his long legs and arms. The fact that he led the Mountain West Conference in rebounding, at 8.8 rebounds per game, speaks volumes of his upside.
Ainge: Maybe our best draft
Celtics general manager Danny Ainge didn't mince words when asked about the Celtics' 2008 draft class, especially J.R. Giddens (New Mexico) and Billy Walker (Kansas State).
"These are as talented as guys as we've had in the draft," said Ainge. "There is risk with everybody you take. But these two guys could both be good players in the NBA."
That's saying something considering Ainge drafted Al Jefferson (15th), Delonte West (24th) and Tony Allen (25th) in 2004.
Doc saw Giddens tape after parade
Celtics coach Doc Rivers has one distinct memory after the Duck Tour parade through downtown Boston last Thursday.
"Danny handed me four tapes to look at of players," said Rivers. "One of them was J.R.'s tape."
Rivers said Ainge had been high on Giddens for a long time and that he liked what he saw on film.
"You could see how competitive he was," said Rivers. "He's very athletic. Danny really liked him. He saw him play a lot. I just saw the tape and then when he came in for the workout."
Rivers said he didn't talk much with Giddens when he was in town, but he did watch him interact with players in the locker room.
"I just sat there and saw him with the guys," said Rivers. "He really fit in."